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Have breakfast ready when you wake up
By Marialisa Calta | Newspaper Enterprise Association
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Published: 10/5/2010 5:24 PM

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As a home cook always looking for ways to get dinner on the table without exhausting yourself, you know that the slow cooker that old fuddy-duddyish appliance you once thought of selling at a yard sale can be your best friend.

With a little bit of planning, you can throw the stew ingredients into the pot in the morning and return from work in the evening to a house filled with delicious aromas. In theory, at least. But that "little bit of planning" is beyond some of us.

We are just not the type of people who can face chunks of raw meat early in the a.m. We have enough trouble choking down some coffee, making our kids' lunches, and getting to work on time.

But that doesn't mean the slow cooker can't be our best friend. In fact, we can use it to cook - breakfast.

The trick is to find recipes that cook overnight. Cookbooks and recipe websites are chock-full of so-called "breakfast" recipes that take three to five hours in a slow cooker.

Most of us don't do too well on three to five hours of sleep. If you have a fancy new, programmable slow cooker, this might not be an issue. But those of us with the old-school kind the ones that you can only turn on or off want recipes that take eight hours or more. They are hard to find, but they do exist.

I was thrilled to find one such recipe in Lynn Alley's "The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker" (2010 Ten Speed Press). Alley's book is made up mostly of main-course, dinner-type dishes, and you might want to consult it for those recipes as well.

Because all the dishes are vegetarian, you won't be required to handle raw meat before you are fully awake.

• Marialisa Calta is the author of "Barbarians at the Plate: Taming and Feeding the American Family" (Perigee, 2005). More at